Friends,
The tithe is not an obligation for Christians. There are no commands in the New Testament to pay 10% or more to a church. “The tithe” was made for the Israelites who were in a theocracy and as a means of support for their temple ministers who ministered before the Lord and on behalf of the people full time, daily, and who had no other income. There were also tithes set aside for the poor (like our taxes that support the welfare system) and also toward one’s own “savings account” for required religious pilgrimages. On the other hand, we who are in the New Covenant are commanded to be generous, and to obey in every area of our lives, including in our finances, all that the Spirit prompts us to do.

The Holy Spirit will certainly lead us to obey God’s moral law, which is encompassed by the Law of Love –to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love others as ourself. (Jesus in Mark 12:29-31) Referring to these and the Ten Commandments, Jesus also said, “If you want to enter Life, obey the commandments.” (Mt. 19:17) We should quote that for those who think people can sin and still belong to Christ. In fact, we are held to a higher Law than that of the Ten Commandments. For as our Lord has informed us, our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees (who held to the Commandments strictly, at least outwardly), or we will not inherit the Kingdom of God. (Mt. 5:20)

Our righteousness must flow from a cleansed / clean / pure heart, and if we have that, we will constantly uphold God’s moral law of conscience (Rom. 2:13-15), which is the Royal Law of Love. (Ja. 2:8, see also Mt. 22:37-40) Therefore, “If we walk in the Spirit we are not under law.” (Gal. 5:18) –Because we will already be serving God (conducting ourselves) in complete holiness and obedience to Christ’s Spirit. (Rom. 8:9,14)

None of us can be declared righteous by the works of the law; but rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. (Rom. 3:20) So although the law is holy, righteous, and good (7:12), because we cannot consistently obey it (without the Spirit’s power), it actually puts us to death. (v. 7-13) For the penalty of committing sin (this being a transgressing of the law –1 John 3:4) is death. (Rom. 6:23) And since committing just one sin makes us guilty of breaking the whole law (Ja. 2:10), we are thereby “held prisoners by the law”. (Gal. 3:23) But Jesus! So through our faith (trust and commitment) to/in Him, “we are no longer under the supervision of the law.” (v. 25) “So the law was our tutor until Christ” (v. 24) “in order that we might be declared righteous by faithfulness.” (Same verse)

“So, my brethren, you also were made to die to the law through the body of Christ, that you might be joined to another” (Rom. 7:4) –to Christ, “in order that we might produce fruit for God.” (Same verse) Therefore, by dying to the law (v. 5) –which had aroused sinful passions in us so that we bore fruit for death (same verse)– “we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.” (v. 6)

So, God “condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous mandates of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” (Rom. 8:4)

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Really? Spotless?

June 18, 2016

Friends,
While witnessing downtown on Thursday (the Trump rally was about a mile away so I only met about a handful headed there), I was asked a question by one of my long-time friends who used to be a pimp and has, for a few years now, been trying to get right with God. He asked, “Do we really have to be spotless?” This was after I had been exhorting him about fleeing from and severing all sources of temptation, and about continuing in holiness through the power of the Holy Spirit which comes by reading and obeying the Word of God.

Do we have to be spotless before God? I told my friend that yes, we do! Someone might say, “I agree, but this spotlessness (perfect righteousness) does not come by our own effort, but simply by believing what Jesus did for us on the cross and asking for pardon and salvation which enables God to then impute Christ’s righteousness to us so that from then on, whenever He looks at us, God sees no sinfulness in us but only His Son’s perfection, and this is the case no matter what our behavior actually is.” Though likely stated in a different way, this IS what most “evangelicals” are saying and teaching.

I quoted to my friend a bunch of verses, and one of them was 2 Pe. 3:14 which says, “…Make every effort to be found by Him [God] spotless, blameless, and at peace.” We are to be spotless –void of sin. As Jesus says, “Be perfect, therefore, even as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt. 5:48) How perfect? How spotless? How clear of sin? We are told that our holiness is to be as perfect as God’s. Whether or not a person wants to argue that this word ‘perfect’ really means ‘mature’, it would still mean to be so as perfectly as God. A mature person would still be required to be spotless. Spotlessness is the issue. It is commanded and required, and that it is our effort that is necessary is what is being addressed.

It is about our choice. God warned Cain in Gen. 4:7, “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” Jesus warns us of the same. (Mt. 7:21-23 // Luke 13:3 // John 5:29)

Therefore, since we have been given the Holy Spirit by which to walk pleasing to God (Rom. 8:1-14 // Gal. 5:16 // 2 Pe. 1:3,4), if we choose not to do so, we are left at the Judgement without excuse. (Rom. 1:18-20 // Heb. 2:3 & 10:26-31)

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Friends,
Yesterday I did a search on the false doctrine of hyper-grace and found an excellent sermon which I listened to carefully in its entirety. I urge everyone to do the same. Here it is:

https://vimeo.com/59298991

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

P.S. Besides Dr. Brown pointing out numerous Truths, I also found it special that the Lord confirmed to me what I had written in my last post about the importance of all Scripture, including the Old Testament.  What I learned that I hadn’t known, is how prevalent it is becoming that “Christians” are throwing out the words of Jesus as they insist that Paul’s message of grace negates Jesus’ hard words, and particularly because Jesus spoke them to the Jews and before the cross.

Friends,
In John 17:17-19 we read Jesus praying to the Father, “Sanctify them through Your Truth: Your Word is Truth. As You have sent Me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified through the Truth.”

From these verses we can learn that it is God’s Word, the Truth, that sanctifies us, which means that it cleanses us from sin and makes us holy and separated unto God. Let no one think that “sanctify” means only “set apart for God”. Many people teach this, but it is not all that sanctification entails. We are set apart unto God through His grace and power and through our faith (our belief, repentance, and submission), but we must remain in this position. (John 15:1-10 // 2 Peter 3:17) If we continue deliberately sinning, we are treating our sanctified position with contempt and God will negate the pardon He gave us. Those who do not believe this need to study and contemplate such verses as Mt. 18:32-34 and Heb. 10:26-31.

Let’s look again at John 17:17-19. We see that it is through God’s Word that we are able to abide in righteousness before God. And why does Jesus sandwich between two phrases –phrases about being sanctified by the Truth– a statement about His commission of sending us into the world (to spread the Truth)? I believe it is because our obedience to the “Great Commission” (see Mt. 28:18-20) is part of our sanctification. As we abide in God’s Word –saturating ourselves with it by reading it, studying it, meditating on it, and putting it into practice– we grow in the fruit of the Spirit and in knowledge of God, His ways, His power, His holiness, His wisdom, His maturity, His grace, and into His image. (Rom. 8:29 // Gal. 5:22,23 // Eph. 1:17-19 & 4:13 // 2 Peter 1:5-8 & 3:14,18) Jesus reveals through His prayer that this growth and fruit production happens through the Word of Truth.

What then should we be doing concerning the Word of Truth? We should be seeking its gems fervently. We should be studying it, memorizing it, and obeying it. Do we set aside plenty of time each day to sit, undistracted, under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit who is found in the Word? Do we quote it and meditate on it even while going about our other activities during each day? Do we organize our week so that we are putting the commands therein into practice? All these we should be doing. All these we are required to do. Attention, honor, and obedience to the Word of God is what will keep us sanctified in God’s eyes.

Let no one be deceived: Whatever we sow, that is what we will reap. (Gal. 6:7) If we sow to please the sinful nature, from that nature we will reap (within ourselves, for ourselves, and in and for those we influence) corruption, decay, rottenness, defilement, death, and destruction. (v. 8) But, if we sow to please the Holy Spirit, from Him shall we (and others we influence) reap Eternal Life. (same verse)

Sowing to the Holy Spirit means we are putting God’s Truth into our minds, our hearts, and our lives. It means we are abiding in God’s Word by meditating on it continuously and applying it obediently. It means we are growing in our sanctification and are thus pleasing to God.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Friends,
It’s been a busy few weeks for me. A lot of it has been visiting those who are sick. Yesterday my mom and I visited a 91 year old missionary at the mission’s apartment building where she (“Aunt” Vivian) has been living, and actually thriving. With joy she cared for her ailing husband there until he died while she also has continued to nurture all the beautiful plants in and around the building. “And to think everything is running just fine without me!” she said, laughing. “Yes, isn’t that how it is?!” I responded. “We’re reminded we’re not the savior of anything.”

It’s true. We often envision ourselves as so necessary. But God has other willing servants besides us and He brings them forward at that time when He chooses to put us on the sidelines or to take us Home.

Still, we’re going to miss my “Aunt” Vivian, for she found out last week that she has two fast-growing tumors in her stomach that can’t be operated on. “Well,” Aunt Vivian said happily yesterday during our visit with her, “The Lord has to take us somehow.” I was sitting next to her, patting her as she lay on her couch, and my mom and I both exclaimed about how wonderful it is to see her still exhibiting her usual cheerful attitude. Aunt Vivian went on to tell us how kind and attentive the other missionary residents have been to her –some bringing meals, others checking on her even in the middle of the night, and some offering to sleep on the floor beside her some nights. “It is truly beautiful,” she said several times.

After leaving her room, we saw another friend in the hall –Mr. D.B. I was so sad to see him still very hunched over, a condition he’s had for years. We asked about his wife who also has been bad off for about a year, and being that he said she was up, he welcomed our request to visit her. So we did. There too we had a nice visit as we sipped the cranberry juice Mr. D.B. gave us, and, as we had with Aunt Vivian, we had a time of prayer with them. Later, after leaving, I told my mom how heart-breaking it is to see that Mr. D.B., even in his condition, is obviously doing most, if not all, of the care-taking for Mrs. D.B. In fact, I’ve seen him at the grocery store –reaching for groceries, all bent over… Oh, that we had more time in the day to help all the hurting people!!!

Then there is my “Aunt” Jean –the 81 year old who I wrote about on Nov. 17. Well, she passed away this morning at about 4:30. I’m glad that I, my husband, and my parents took time to visit her last month in the hospital. May the Lord comfort her family.

Then there’s my “Aunt” C. She had a massive stroke a few days before Thanksgiving and is not doing well. My brother gave some money for the youngest daughter to drive the five hours here, which she did and was able to stay a few days. Aunt C’s other children live nearby, thankfully, but it is still very hard to see our friends going through such suffering.

One of our missionary friends who was 94 asked me a while back when we visited her at her Assisted Living Home to be praying that she would go to be with Jesus. I did pray it and when she told my dad on one of his last visits to see her, “Please ask Rachel to pray that I die,” I prayed it even more –that the Lord would relieve her soon of her suffering. A few weeks later He did –on Oct. 29th of this year. She had been a missionary in Peru with her late husband, leaving behind a beautiful legacy, including that of influencing one of their sons who chose to carry on the Gospel work there.

Last Friday I drove back out to the country to attend a funeral (which is now appropriately called, for those who followed Christ, “A Celebration of Life”). My friend, Darlene, from the Sabbath church I sometimes went to, and who was only 68 years old, passed away, due to cancer, the Monday before. The Celebration of her life was so nice, and we were all comforted in knowing that she had stated that she was completely at peace about dying. Apparently she was even more wonderful than I thought –never to hold a grudge, always forgiving, so full of joy and fun, and also wise and responsible with home and church affairs, as well as her managerial job at the local newspaper. I found out that she had been the one who boarded the Sunday School bus as a child and led the way for her siblings to also seek God’s Truth.

Darlene left behind her preacher husband, who seemed to be doing well, four kids and their spouses, and several grand-children. Though it was a happy time in seeing so many of my friends again, I did shed tears during some extra touching parts of the very lovely service. I kept thinking of Darlene’s sweetness, her consistent kindness to me (even though I had often expressed to them my disagreement in some of their beliefs), and how everyone recognized that her outward elegance and beauty came from her inward holiness. It made me wish I had known her even better. It made me think again about what people will say about me when I die. It made me more determined to be a sweeter, better person…

Maybe we all should think about it: When we die, will people attend a funeral, or will they be attending, truly, “A Celebration of My Life”? In other words, who of us are living lives that others can celebrate, that others consider to be a life well spent, that others receive warm and joyful feelings as they think about us..? Or, do they have sad thoughts as they think on us? Sad because there was a lot of strife, cruelty, inconsideration, rudeness, unfairness, dishonesty…? Did our life cause others remorse? Did our life point others to Jesus and His ways, or did our life point others away from Jesus and His ways?

Hopefully, no matter where we are at in the level of goodness, sweetness, holiness, and overall Christ-likeness, may we, right now in the present, “be living wisely and making the most of every opportunity as we are careful to walk in God’s will.” (See Eph. 5:15-17) May we be allowing all suffering, sickness, hospital visits, and death to remind us to make every day count. –To make it count for what is right, and good, and holy. To make it count for salvation –others’ and our own.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Friends,
When we have genuine faith in Christ Jesus, we will be following Him –His Spirit and His Word. We will be listening and putting into practice the instructions we hear and read. As we do this we will gain knowledge of the Truth. When we gain knowledge of the Truth we will be increasing in godliness. Therefore, genuine faith always leads to godliness. (Titus 1:1)

Godliness is obedience to Christ / whole-hearted dedication to God and His commands. (Rom. 1:5 & 6:22) The benefit is holiness (purity) which reaps for us eternal life. (Mt. 5:8 // Rom. 6:22) Without godliness (holiness / purity / righteousness) a person remains in his sinfulness and will reap for himself eternal death. (Rom. 6:23 // Heb. 12:14)

Only those who do what is right are righteous. (1 John 3:7) They have been born of God. (2:29) Those who do what is sinful belong to the devil. (3:8,10) They do not belong to God, but reveal, through their sinfulness, that their father is the devil. (John 8:44,47) Thus they carry out Satan’s desires (v. 44) and have his character traits. (1 John 3:12) Only those who carry out God’s desires enter into and abide in Life. (Mt. 19:17) Only those who obey God have the Spirit who gives Life (John 6:63 // 1 John 3:24) –He who is the Lord Himself (2 Cor. 3:17,18) and the Word. (John 6:63)

Gaining knowledge of the Truth is essential for walking in godliness, for it is the Truth which sets us free from sin. (John 8:32) If we are following Jesus… if we are right there at His side, with Him as the Leader, we will be getting to know Him ever better –He who is the Truth (and the Word, the Way, the Spirit, and the Life). (1:1,14 & 6:63 & 14:6) By knowing Him, the Truth, we know how to utilize the power He has given us for all we need for life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3) By knowing Him, the Word, we apply His promises along with His divine power, so that we are able to participate in God’s own divine nature (v. 4 // 1 John 3:9) and escape the world’s corruption. (2 Peter 1:4)

So, being we have God’s wonderful promises and are increasing in the knowledge of Him (2 Peter 1:5-8) who gives us the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:12 // 1 Thes. 4:7) –He who produces in us His fruit (Gal. 5:22,23)– let us continually keep ourselves purified of all that threatens to contaminate us (2 Cor. 7:1), perfecting our godliness because we reverence the Lord. (same verse)

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Friends,
Those who live lives that cannot be consider holy are rejecting God’s commands (1 Thes. 4:7) about being holy in all we do and think and say. (Mt. 5:27-30 & 12:36,37 // 1 Peter 1:15) Such people are therefore rejecting God Himself. (1 Thes. 4:7) To reject God and His commands is to reject the Holy Spirit. (same verse) Let no one be deceived: Committing rejection against the Spirit, by committing willful sin, can certainly happen in the heart of a person who has formerly housed the Spirit. (same verse // 1 Cor. 3:16,17 // Heb. 10:26,29) This is a serious Truth from God’s Word, and those who are careless about it are bringing eternal punishment upon themselves. (Eph. 5:5,6 // 1 Thes. 4:1-6)

We are, absolutely, to live lives that please God. (1 Thes. 4:1) Moreover, we are to be training ourselves to please Him more and more so that we may walk in Life now and live there eternally. (same verse // 1 Tim. 4:7,8) Our minds are to be set on what God’s Spirit desires (Rom. 8:5), for if it is not, we are being hostile to God (v. 7), which can in no way please Him. (v. 8 ) Those who continue to displease God abide in death (v. 6,13) and are headed for destruction. (Heb. 10:38,39)

Those who obey the Gospel of the Lord Jesus abide in Him and His love, and are thus one with His Spirit. (John 15:10 // 1 Cor. 6:17 // 1 John 3:24) Those who remain one with the Spirit listen to Him, obey Him, and let themselves be led and controlled by Him. (Rom. 8:9 // Gal. 5:16,18) Such people belong to God and walk in Life. (Rom. 8:13,14) Those who live sinfully do not belong to God. (1 John 3:10) Because they keep sinning, they will reap eternal death (Rom. 8:13 // Gal. 6:8), regardless of their claims to know Jesus (1 John 2:4), love Him (John 14:23), or have Him as their Lord. (Mt. 7:21-23 // Luke 6:46-49)

Those who continue having sinful behavior and sinful cravings do not belong to the Lord (Gal. 5:24) but instead remain under His wrath. (Eph. 2:1-3 // Col. 3:1-7) For renouncing sin and making every effort to be holy is the only way to have fellowship with the Lord and to be saved from the wage of eternal death which sin brings. (Rom. 6:22,23 // Heb. 12:14)

Those who reject this instruction reject the Holy Spirit. (1 Thes. 4:7)

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel